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J Dent Res. 2011 May;90(5):580-2. doi: 10.1177/0022034510384629. Epub 2010 Oct 7.

Bell's palsy: the answer to the riddle of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'.

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  • 1Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care, College of Dentistry, New York University, 345 E. 24th Street, New York, NY 10010, USA.


The smile of the famed portrait 'The Mona Lisa' has perplexed both art historians and researchers for the past 500 years. There has been a multitude of theories expounded to explain the nature of the model's enigmatic smile. The origin of the model's wry smile can be demonstrated through a careful analysis of both documented facts concerning the portrait--some gathered only recently through the use of modern technology--and a knowledge of the clinical presentation of Bell's palsy. Bell's palsy is more prevalent in women who are either pregnant or who have recently given birth. This paper postulates that the smile of the portrait's model was due to Leonardo da Vinci's anatomically precise representation of a new mother affected by Bell's palsy subsequent to her recent pregnancy.

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